Marja Lubeck said she would continue to be a strong local voice.
After several postponements, the Wellsford candidates’ debate nearly reached its 100-person maximum under Level 2.5 when it was finally held on October 1, just as early voting started. The only empty seats were the entire front row.
Moderator Brian Mason was surprised by the appearance of Advance Party New Zealand leader Billy Te Kahika.
Mr Te Kahika stacked the crowd with 10 to 20 supporters who filled the back rows and cheered everything he said.
Labour candidate Marja Lubeck had only stacked the crowd with one supporter, but they managed to submit a potent question for the candidates to answer – how is it that Marja has done such a good job for Rodney?
Mr Te Kahika opened by saying that the Government was communist and linked the incumbent coalition to conspiracy theories that the United Nations is using climate change and Covid-19 to pull strings in NZ.
In the next breath, Mr Te Kahika approvingly quoted UN figures on child poverty in New Zealand as fact.
This set the tone for a bitter rivalry between Mr Te Kahika and Green Party candidate Zephyr Brown.
Mr Brown said Covid-19 and climate change were, in fact, real.
He went on to say his party wanted to reduce reliance on cars and highways, which was met by calls from the crowd of Wellsford farmers and business owners that he should get on his bicycle.
Independent candidate David Ford said Rodney did not need another highway and drones could be used to deliver goods between Auckland and Whangarei.
Before the end of the debate Mr Brown appeared to cut his losses and encouraged left-leaning voters to vote for Labour and right-leaning voters to vote for ACT, while assuming that Chris Penk would win the candidate vote.
He said this could result in Kaipara ki Mahurangi having three MPs in Parliament – Mr Penk as MP for Kaipara ki Mahurangi, and Ms Lubeck and ACT’s Beth Houlbrooke as list MPs.
“That would be better than wasting your vote on Advance New Zealand,” Mr Brown said.
A questioner asked candidates who would pay the bill incurred by the Government during lockdown.
Ms Lubeck said the Labour Party had a very good record when it came to debt, which was met by raucous laughter from the crowd.
She said it was right for the Government to fund healthcare and the wage subsidy, and that now was the time to borrow to invest in infrastructure while debt was cheap.
“Labour’s lolly scramble,” a member of the crowd shouted.
“National’s tax cuts are a lolly scramble,” Ms Lubeck returned.
David Ford said NZ could look to the ancient Greek Empire for inspiration and enact a debt jubilee, forgiving all debt.
Candidates were asked if they would restore subsidies for councils to upgrade rural gravel roads to sealed roads.
Each of the candidates agreed that sealing roads needed to be funded through central government policy.
The topic of funding for Rodney and revenue generation for territorial authorities also came up.
Ms Houlbrooke said a portion of GST should be given to councils, while Mr Te Kahika said councils should be given proceeds from alcohol, tobacco and fuel taxes.
Social Credit candidate Callan Neylon proposed that various local projects, from roads to waste-to-energy plants, could be funded through loans from the Reserve Bank.